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We know virtually nothing about life outside of Earth. A large bulk of the Milky Way galaxy is still left unexplored, and will probably remain that way until scientists learn how to launch astronauts past the moon. Fueling the awe, wonder and curiosity of our galaxy even further is the largest photo of space ever taken from Germany’s Ruhr-Universitat Bochum.

“The final image is 46 billion pixels, or 46 gigapixels: 855,000 pixels wide by 54,000 tall. It weighs in at 194 gigabytes, which makes it a bit difficult to download — you have to navigate it in a special viewer like it’s an online map. And in a way, it is: The stars are cataloged and you can put the name of one, like Eta Carinae (above) or M8, into the search box and you’ll be sent to its location,” wrote Devin Coldewey from NBC News.

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Ants Under a Magnifying Glass

The photo is made up of over 268 compiled shots over the course of five years. According to Moritz Hackstein, a PhD candidate who conducted the survey as part of his thesis, one would need over 22,000 HD TV screens to display the entire image. Because most average citizens don’t have access to a neighborhood full of monitors, the group uploaded the masterpiece online. The makeshift viewer allows you to check out bits and pieces of the photo using an image scroller.

Exact plots located at the bottom left corner of the screen come in handy if you spot strange illusions, such as a panhandle, smiley face or a seahorse. Sharing your experience is as simple as copying and pasting the coordinates to social media or a private messaging app. Alternatively, typing in keywords in the field pulls up past discoveries made by notable astronomers. A quick M8 search will instantly focus on the green blob that you probably couldn’t stop staring at in the center of the photo above (also known as Eta Carinae).

For those who want to dig a bit deeper into the great abyss, there’s the readily available zoom functions. Professionals can also indulge in a handful of data color options through the Look Up Table (LUT) panel. By manipulating other variables from the side menu, you could create a snapshot of the galaxy in your favorite colors. For smooth scanning, try adjusting the JPEG quality. Some of the images may take time to load, even with fast Internet connections.

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Star Surveillance

Curious scientists built the online viewer to look for hidden gems in the Milky Way. From Earth, the brightness of planets, comets and other stars actually prevent researchers from seeing everything that space has to offer. Since the release of the image, astronomers working on the project have made numerous remarkable discoveries, and through the website, you can too.

“With it, Moritz and the rest of the team hope to find stars which are occasionally obscured by orbiting planets or other objects. So far, they’ve spotted more than 50,000 such stars,” highlighted Andrew Tarantola from Endgadget. So put on your goggles, get online and start stargazing, cadet!

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